Long ball continues to drop for men

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Two plays and one statistic is about all that is needed to describe the Marquette men’s basketball team’s 82-59 drubbing of Rutgers Tuesday night at the Bradley Center.

43.3 — Marquette’s team 3-point percentage following the win over Rutgers.

The Golden Eagles have long been a guard-oriented team. But in the days of Dominic James and Jerel McNeal (pre-senior year), shooting the long ball has not been the team’s forte.

What has changed this season? Well, for starters, seniors Maurice Acker and David Cubillan have gotten back their mojo. In the 2006-’07 season, Cubillan’s freshman campaign, the guard hit 48-of-113 (42.5 percent) from 3-point range, demonstrating his penchant for instant offense off the bench. In the 2007-’08 season, Acker showcased his stroke by knocking down 26-of-61 (42.6 percent) of his 3-point attempts.

In subsequent seasons, Cubillan’s productivity — and more importantly his efficiency — decreased dramatically. In both his sophomore and junior seasons combined, he went just 49-for-150 (32.6 percent) from deep. The same went for Acker in his junior season, as he hit just 19-of-66 (28.7 percent) from beyond the arc.

This season, along side sophomore sharpshooter Darius Johnson-Odom (51.1 percent from 3-point range), and as part of a team that leads the nation in 3-point percentage, Acker and Cubillan have combined to shoot 57-for-116 (49.1 percent).

Against Rutgers, Acker was at it again, hitting his first four 3-point attempts. As a team, the Golden Eagles hit 9-of-17 (52.9 percent) from deep.

13:13 — After Johnson-Odom missed a fast-break dunk, teammate Dwight Buycks got the offensive rebound and reset. The ball eventually made its way in to Lazar Hayward who missed a short floater. Offensive-rebounding machine Jimmy Butler hauled in the miss and quickly pitched it back inside to Hayward on the block. Just then Maurice Acker flashed open at the top of the key and Hayward hit him with a strike. Acker buried the 3-pointer to put Marquette up 23-7.

Rutgers coach Fred Hill said the above sequence is exactly what makes Marquette so dangerous.

“On offensive rebounds, they don’t look to go back and score,” he said. “They look to kick it out.”

And why not? With Marquette’s biggest inside threat listed at a generous 6-foot-6, going straight back up after an offensive rebound may not be the best option when 6-foot-11 shot-blocking fiend Hamady Ndiaye is ready to swat anything into the stands.

“When we get offensive rebounds a lot of people say, ‘Go straight up.’ But everybody is kind of sinking down in on us and that’s leaving (Cubillan, Johnson-Odom, Acker) and Buycks open on the perimeter,” Butler said. “And I feel if you throw it to them and they’re wide open, that’s a pretty high-percentage shot, also.”

5:51 — With seven 3-pointers already good for the Golden Eagles, the Rutgers defense flocked to any player who posed a threat. As Johnson-Odom got the ball on the left wing, he pump-faked, drew the defense in, then tossed the ball over to Acker. Even more afraid of Acker, the defense collapsed on him. That left forward Joe Fulce all alone at the top of the key. His three made it 39-16 in favor of Marquette.

This is the type of faith and charity that led Acker, who is shooting 78.3 percent from deep in conference play, and Johnson-Odom, who leads the team in 3-pointers with 45, to give the rock to a forward that had hit just 1-of-3 from beyond the arc all season.

“We’re not selfish at all,” Fulce said. “Everybody’s trying to get the best open look. We all have confidence in our teammates and whenever we see them open we try to make the defense shift as much as possible. We have confidence in them to hit the shot.”

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